Geography - How I wonder what you are

11th January 2013 at 00:00

What it's all about

Bright stars abound at this time of year - in displays, picture books and the vivid fireworks of New Year's Eve celebrations. But for most pupils in urban environments, light pollution means their chances of gazing at a real-life twinkling star are slim, writes Paula Owen.

Ask pupils to evaluate where they live in terms of light pollution. Are the lights essential? How do they make the place safer? Which users prefer dark places? Think about people and animals. How does light pollution affect biodiversity? What about energy use and waste? How are locations different from day to night?

Ask children to think about where in the UK - or world - they would stand a better chance of seeing bright stars at night and why. Maps and aerial images will help them. There may be an area quite near your school where it is possible to escape the glare and see some stars. Use the Dark Sky project map to find out.

Nasa has some wonderful images of the Earth, seen from space at night, showing visible light from cities and revealing that it's never night time at the same time all over the world. These stitched-together images show some remarkable geography: the major cities of the world; how the population seems to be concentrated near coastlines; and how the interiors of the African and Australian continents are mysteriously dark. Does that mean no one lives there?

What else?

Check out Dark Sky Discovery ( and My Dark Sky, a project collecting data on light pollution (

View the world from space with NASA's Visible Earth lights image. bit.lyNasaImages.

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